Associate Superintendent VanGorder served Park City School District well
Park City School District Associate Superintendent Tom VanGorder is departing after offering his expertise to the district for more than 22 years.
When VanGorder arrived in 1994, the school district was just beginning to talk about building a middle school, and maybe even a high school in the Snyderville Basin. Local schools were just beginning to face an unprecedented leap in enrollment and the district was scrambling to keep up. Plans were also afoot to expand the high school to include a performing arts center. Today it is impossible to imagine Park City without Ecker Hill Middle School and the Eccles Center, and the district is once again contemplating a major expansion plan.
In the interim, the school district has dealt with an economic recession, massive changes in federal regulations (No Child Left Behind and Common CORE, for example) and huge changes in the classroom brought on by advances in technology.
Through it all, VanGorder has helped the district steer a steady course aimed at delivering the best education possible to local students — including stepping in as interim superintendent on three different occasions.
But earlier this month the Park City Board of Education voted three-to-one to buy out the remainder of VanGorder’s current contract. His last day at the district is Aug. 31.
The decision was made in a closed session and all parties have agreed to put a positive spin on the split, so it is not known whether a specific issue precipitated is departure. As the district’s point person for federal and state programs for at-risk students, VanGorder shouldered the brunt of criticism over the district’s handling of a number of diabetic students. But the district said that did not factor into their decision.
The district’s stated rationale for the decision is in line with an earlier policy decision to shift funding away from administration costs and into classrooms.
If that is the case, the decision is well taken. Over time bureaucracies, in general, and in the public sector especially, have a tendency to become top heavy. By eliminating VanGorder’s position and allowing attrition to slim down a few other management spots, the district should be able to direct more money to classroom support, including additional aides, school supplies and teacher raises.
VanGorder’s many behind-the-scenes contributions to the district should be acknowledged and the district should continue to rigorously monitor the ratio of funds spent on administrative costs versus direct benefits to students.
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